Massage Therapist Continuing Education
Why pursue continuing education (beyond the fact that most state boards require at least a little of it)? One is that it’s an opportunity to tailor your education toward your own career goals. Another is that, as a massage therapist, you are a health practitioner, and health-related knowledge is ever increasing. There are also some content areas, for example, legalities and ethics, that people tend to need to brush up on.
Tailoring Your Education to Career Needs
One 500 (or even 1,000) hour program can’t prepare you for all the situations you’ll encounter. Your basic program might be very much like your peers’; it meets licensing standards and likely includes the core curriculum identified by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork.
After years of attending conferences and taking internet courses, your education may look very different from someone else’s. It may be tailored to your work setting — or to your desired work setting. You may be interested in particular techniques or in learning to better care for patients with particular health challenges. Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) president Kevin Snedden, in a question and answer session with the American Massage Therapy Association, notes that spa employers may ask about continuing education in interviews (http://www.amtamassage.org/articles/3/MTJ/detail/1838). In a separate article about massage in healthcare settings, AMTA notes that it’s a good idea to take continuing education specifically focused on the target population — e.g. cancer patients (http://www.amtamassage.org/uploads/cms/documents/amta_healthguide_0814_proof.pdf).
Meeting State Requirements
You will want to familiarize yourself with the renewal requirements set by your own licensing agency. Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals has provided a summary of licensing requirements that includes continuing education requirements (https://www.massagetherapy.com/sites/massagetherapy.com/files/1/files/MassageCareerGuide_09.pdf). However, you should always go to the source to confirm. It’s not uncommon for states to pass new regulations and increase the requirements. The state may also have very particular requirements: You may need to take courses in particular areas. Ethics is a common one. There may be a requirement that at least some of the hours be live (as opposed to distance education).
Locating Continuing Education
Chances are, you will have a lot of options. A good starting place is the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (http://www.ncbtmb.org/tools/find-approved-provider). The NCBTMB has a rigorous approval process for continuing education providers. You can search by area of interest — anything from aquatic massage to structural integration — and see if there are offerings in your geographic area; some courses by approved providers are online. If you are board certified, you will need to use NCBTMB-approved providers to earn your continuing education units.
You may also want to explore the AMTA website (http://www.amtamassage.org/education/index.html). AMTA does not approve courses from outside providers, but does have a wealth of offerings of its own, including online courses. You may come across links to related continuing education offerings as you are reading career articles on the AMTA website. You may also want to get to know your local chapter. AMTA is an NCBTMB-approved provider. So is ABMP.
Your credentialing agency may accept college or university coursework in lieu of traditional continuing education.
Some organizations stress that it’s not enough just to take a class now and then; you also need to be a knowledgeable consumer of research. If you attain board certification through the NCBTMB, you will have a research requirement. The NCBTMB requires three hours of research education for renewal. Massage therapists are referred to the Massage Therapy Foundation (https://www.ncbtmb.org/ncbtmb-research-requirements-board-certification/).
With so many options, may want to go beyond the dozen or so hours a year that licensing agencies typically expect. Many massage therapists do; AMTA reports the average as 21 hours a year (http://www.amtamassage.org/infocenter/economic_industry-fact-sheet.html).